A Small Reveal

I alluded to a complete change of lifestyle in my last post. It drew a lot of interest and some questions so I contemplated doing a ‘halfway’ reveal. That would be next weekend but I still am not sure I’m ready to open myself up for input, criticism, or commentary from the general public yet. Sean and a couple of my closest friends have seen and supported me through the last 5 weeks. It’s not always easy to be patient and trust the process. I want instant results just like everybody else. So instead of completely unveiling my new plan and body I thought I’d share the overview and a sneak peek instead.

The easiest way to explain what I’ve been doing is to say it’s a balance between exercise, nutrition, and supplements. I’m hitting the gym 11 times per week. I run 5 days per week and lift 6 days. I combine easy runs and speed work and I hit every body part with weights at least once per week. I eat ‘clean’ 98% of the time. That’s no joke! I eat 6 times per day, 7 days a week. One of those meals on Sunday gets to be a ‘cheat’ meal where I go out to eat with friends or family and splurge on a burger or a milkshake. And every day I follow a routine of supporting my nutrition and workouts with a careful selection of supplements.

Today’s cheat meal at Rockhoppers
(Split with my mom!)
The results of this complete change have been astounding. I’m still waiting on an appointment to get my body fat percentage checked so I don’t know where I started or where I am now (yet). But I have seen huge changes and my clothes fit differently than ever before.  My performances are improving on both runs and weights. And my energy is through the roof.
And here’s the proof:
Completed 5k on the treadmill, the day after leg day and after going out dancing last night, in 24 minutes. My previous best was 24:27 and that was back in 2012. After only 5 weeks I have already met one of my 2015 goals (set a new 5k PR!).
AND
I’m stronger and happier with my body than ever before. Every week I go heavier, go harder, find another way to tweak my nutrition. And while I can’t wait to share the full transformation with everyone, right now I am enjoying the journey and focusing on learning and growing on my own.
Are you ready for 2015? Have you set your goals and outlined the steps to reach them yet?

They Should Increase My Meds: Marathon Training Week 5

Week 5 meant that it was time to buckle down. In order to have at least a 10 day taper my last long run needed to happen in this week. I was really nervous and kept my weekday mileage low in order to be fresh for my last big run.

Week 5 ended up looking like this:

Monday: Driving back from South Carolina
Tuesday: 5.25 miles at 10:19 pace
Wednesday: 3.25 miles at 10:01 pace
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 17 miles at 10:44 average
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 4.1 miles at 8:37 average (10:04 warm up mile followed by a 25:12 5k)

Total: 29.6 miles

After 17 miles. I was not impressed that I didn’t go 20.
Now I’m into week 6 and getting ready to face taper madness! The mister has already noticed my tendency to over-think every aspect of training and racing so it should be interesting to see if I can tone it down.

FAAP Fall Classic 10k

I haven’t posted in awhile. My apologies but I needed a break. From running, from training, from thinking so hard about it all. So what did I do with my two weeks? Nothing. I didn’t run. I didn’t work out. I ate anything I wanted. I drank some beer and wine. After about 12 days of living a normal American lifestyle I’d had enough.

I started with the P90X plyo DVD followed by a 3 mile run the next day. Apparently that was too much. My legs were super sore yesterday and still complaining this morning. But Shane was excited for this event so we were on our way at 6:45am. I chose my INKnBURN denim shorts and leaf ’em sports bra under our Team Brunazzi shirts. Shoes were Altra Superiors with the rock guard removed. We dropped off the kids with Shane’s sister to play with their cousin and then headed to North Park.

We picked up our shirts and bibs and then talked to the other runners and our friends from the timing service. Shane decided we should do a warm up so we headed up the road a ways and immediately my legs complained. After a short distance I gave up and headed back to await the coming torture. I also discovered my Garmin decided to discharge its battery and shut down so I would be running ‘blind’.

Shane pre-race
This race is held by the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh so there was a hand-carved gong to get us going. The race director recognized Shane and I and offered a greeting before launching into the course description and markings. After that the medical director gave a short word on not pushing too hard and respecting your limitations. I admit I snickered that a 5k/10k had a medical director so maybe I only got what I deserved.
The 10k started 10 minutes before the 5k and at the sound of the gong I went hard. I knew we would move from road to trail quickly and I wanted to be in position before we bottle necked. Suddenly I realized I was ahead of Shane and all the other women. I pulled back and about 5-7 more people blew by me. Shane shouted, “You’re running 6:15 pace. Slow down!” I should have listened.
I pulled back a little bit as we hit the trail and settled into the chase pack. My legs hurt but I knew I was refreshed from the recent rest and wanted to see if they would shake out. I started to worry when I was looking for the 1 mile water stop long before we actually hit it. Feeling like you’ve run way over a mile at only 0.75 is not a good sign. Without a Garmin I figure I went out too hard. I probably ran a 7:45 first mile. Oops.
The next two miles were a blur of pain as my lungs and legs began to burn. I kept pushing knowing that I should be able to place well since it was decently technical trail and a short distance. I couldn’t get any decent pace on the uphills (I’ve had this happen a LOT recently) and I was overheating. I whipped off my shirt, not caring that my bib was on it.
As we approached some volunteers pointing to a turn I thought, “We must be over halfway now.” Nope, they shouted, “2.8 miles. Almost halfway!” I wanted to die. I decided to pull back for a mile and see if I could recover enough to push hard to the end. A few men passed me and a woman I know, Natalie, caught me and ran with me for awhile. We chatted and I relaxed into it for a bit until we hit a long uphill. I let my friend go and silently berated myself as I walked up.
The last couple miles another runner I know, Mike, caught me and basically stayed on my tail with another man. We were all suffering and didn’t chat much except for when we came to two forks in a row that were unmarked. We made our best guesses based on the general direction we needed to head and hoped for the best. Thankfully we came upon another volunteer about a quarter mile later. I quickly told him about the unmarked forks but I guess he didn’t say anything because I found out a lot of people got lost there, including the leaders.
As I pounded down a hill a volunteer shouted that there was a downed tree at the bottom to watch out for. A man bolted past me, ignoring the warning, and caught his feet on the tree taking a pretty awful digger. But he got up and kept running so he must have been okay. I took the time to walk to the tree and step over and lost the man in the process. As I ran up an access road I heard another set of feet approaching. I figured it was Mike but a quick glance over my shoulder told me differently. A woman passed me and quickly gapped me. I didn’t care in the least by that point.
As we headed back towards the start I knew there was a field and then one last road section to the finish line. Two more women approached from the rear and I gathered enough dignity to push hard enough to ensure my lead. I tried to catch the woman who had passed me on the way to the finish but I didn’t have enough of a kick. I dragged myself across the line in 1:05:15 for 27th overall and 9th woman.
I crossed the line, handed over my bib tag after some fumbling with my shirt, and then stumbled to the grass where I promptly collapsed. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I was hot and then cold and not sweating. I chugged the remainder of my water between gasps and stared at the swirling tree branches over my head. I was slightly amused by how I must appear to the other runners. Out of shape? Not a trail runner? Inexperienced? I mused that the medical director would be showing up to give me a speech any second. Only it was just a fellow runner and a volunteer who came to my aid. After a few minutes of listening to them debate whether I should stay laying down or get up and walk I dragged myself to my feet and into the port-o-john to hide. After about 10 minutes I felt almost normal although a little wobbly. I swallowed my pride and rejoined the festivities outside.
While waiting for results the FAAP put out Filipino food but I couldn’t even look at it. I grabbed a banana and hunkered in the corner to watch the dancers do their performance.

 

Filipino dancers
As I watched my strength returned. I just wanted to go home but Shane had finished in 7th place in about 55 minutes and earned 1st in his age group so we waited. I was shocked when I was called for 3rd in my age group. I absolutely felt my performance was undeserving of anything. I also learned the first woman had finished in 55-something. On a good day I probably could have smashed this course and gotten an overall award. That’s going to drive me in regaining my fitness in the coming weeks for sure. In the end I’m just glad I got a run in and got out on the trails even if it was an embarrassing performance.

 

Close up of the bamboo award

 

shirt

Electrodash Recap

My friends from the Color Vibe 5k wanted to do another fun event. We picked the Electrodash in Pittsburgh. It was centered around the Great Lawn on the North Shore which meant plenty of parking and some really nice views. The run itself is basically billed as a running rave with lasers, fog machines, lighted props, and all the electro/house/techno music you can handle. Based on this I can say without a doubt that the event met its hype.

I arrived hours early thanks to living an hour northeast of the city and working half an hour southwest of it. I didn’t have time to go home but I had plenty of time to twiddle my thumbs. Thankfully the parking lot I selected was directly across the street from the finish area and I was able to watch the construction as I ate my prepacked dinner and applied my electro temporary tattoo.

I accidentally rocked this thing for the rest of the weekend too.
After a bit I got out to stretch my legs and wander the Great Lawn. I happened to run into the first member of our group, P, and together we began to trek towards the starting line a half mile or so away. When we were a block from the starting line we found the rest of our group heading to the finish area to pick up a packet. We trekked back and then decorated ourselves before we headed back to the starting line again.
 Clouds rolling into Pittsburgh
P and I
The starting line was beyond packed when we arrived. It was supposed to be a two wave start so we found an alcove to wait in while we watched for the first wave. It never came and the clock ticked past when the second wave was supposed to be starting so we eventually just crammed ourselves into the pack and waited.
 Goofing off before the start

 

Just a small snapshot of the crowd
Finally the DJ yelled go and the crowd surged forward… at a snail’s pace. We joked that it was now the Electrowalk. P and I finally got impatient and took off up the sidewalk while the rest of the group stuck together. Once we got off the road there were sights and sounds every quarter mile or so. It was a constant sensory assault with pounding beats, flashing lights, and eerie fog effects for almost the entire course.

 

 

 

 

As we approached the finish line (a mere three quarters of a mile short of a 5k) we were greeted with a stunning view of the fountain at the point. Then we turned and sprinted up a hill to the finish line party.

No joke. We literally crossed the line into a mass of writhing bodies pulsating to the beat and covered in glow paint and glow sticks. It was an adrenaline rush at the very least. Maybe a bit overwhelming to my almost 30 year old self.
Once all of our group had finished we hung out at the party for a bit before heading home. Thankfully traffic on a Friday night in the city is minimal and it didn’t take me long to navigate my way out of the maze that is Pittsburgh.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the Electrodash. For $44 we got a shirt, a bib, a ton of glow jewelry, and a moving party for 2.36 miles. Topped off with a 2 hour party with a DJ on the scenic North Shore of Pittsburgh. If you are just looking for a fun run to share an evening with friends the Electrodash is a pretty good way to do it (and costs less than a bar tab or rolling at rave too).

Back in the Saddle… For the First Time

Maybe you’ve been around long enough to remember when I got a bike for Christmas. Well, it pretty much sat and collected dust for almost 4 years while I focused on my running. Then my friend, Jenn, suggested that I move it to her house and meet up for evening rides. She decided we would start with an easy 20 miler through the city. I felt confident I would bonk, possibly die, and embarrass myself.

View of the city from the Hot Metal Bridge
Amazingly, I survived and even kind of enjoyed myself. We made it 20 miles and averaged 10MPH or so. It was nothing spectacular but I was very happy that I completed it. We made a stop at REI and also at the OTB Bike Cafe for some dinner. It was a great way to spend an evening with some of my favorite people.
A cafe for cyclists? Right on!
I guess I enjoyed it more than I would like to admit because we did a 20.5 miler on a slightly tougher course just a couple days later. And then followed that with a 16 mile ride the next day. Ending up with 56 miles of cycling in 5 days, and a good number of running miles too, was completely unexpected. But it lit the fire in me that has been missing for some time now.
Where’s the pot of gold?
I don’t know if I’m training for anything. Jenn thinks I should sign up for Pedal Pittsburgh’s metric century (100k). Someone else has suggested doing a Spartan Ultra Beast in the not-so-distant future. And I’ve been eyeing a marathon or ultra early next year. But mostly I’m enjoying feeling stronger and healthier than I have for a long time. I’m enjoying spending time with the people I care about the most in the beautiful city I love. It’s enough to just be back on the path of my six year journey to fitness for right now.
Cooling down along the North Shore Trail

Runnin’ Outta Our Mine 5k … Again

I’ve run this race every year since it started. I’m a little bit over the whole underground running thing but I knew Paul would get a kick out of it so I had signed us up for our first race of the year. The day before the race my babysitter fell through so we ended up bringing Gem with us and she decided to run too.

Race morning was pretty laid back as the race doesn’t start until 11am. We arrived at 10 and got Gem registered and our bibs pinned on. Then we hit the bathrooms and walked around and saw a few friends. Mostly we just sat on a curb and waited.

 Paul and I as INKnBURN pirates
 Gem and I before the race
>> You may also wanna consider to get the Step2 Skyward Summit, a kids outdoor playhouse, for botth purposes playing and training!
A few minutes before 11 we went outside and gathered around a fire barrel to stay warm while we waited for the start. When the race started (I never heard a gun or horn or anything!) I grabbed all of our coats and threw them in the snow off to the side. We all ran up a hill for a quarter mile or so and then into the entrance of the mine. It was such a relief to get into the 55* interior after the 18* run up the hill.
Gem did really well the first mile. We passed the clock at about 11 minutes with only one or two quick walk breaks. The second mile she started to get a little tired and we took a few more walk breaks. Right before the two mile clock we finally reached the water table which pacified Gem for just a little longer. The second mile clocked in right around 12:30.
Running through a mine
The third mile was Gem’s undoing. She walked a lot more and even began to cry. I was a little tough on her because I knew she was going to act up. Every 5k she’s ever done she has thrown a fit and wanted to quit in the third mile but I can never talk her out of doing them in the first place. I’m pretty sure a lot of the other parents probably thought I was a jerk but I know Gem can finish a 5k and I wasn’t pushing her too hard.
Rubble
We finally turned a bend and were back on concrete floors. We could feel the fresh breeze from the mine exit and Gem perked up. Her pace picked up and we managed to make it to the last bend with only one more walk break. Then the finish line came into view and she started to sprint hard. I guess she couldn’t wait to be done!
Area of the mine used for boat storage
As soon as we crossed the line in 38:07 (a new PR for Gem!) she threw up. I was a little horrified but kind of proud that she has the drive to push to the finish. She was upset about throwing up at first but as soon as she was handed a water and a cookie she cheered up. Then she got a few congratulations from bystanders on pushing so hard (and a few finish line puke stories) and she began to brag to everyone that talked to her about it!
Overall, this race is poorly organized and I’m not that thrilled with moving the start/finish outdoors in February. But I’m glad I’ve been able to share it with Gem and Paul now. Hopefully next time we sign up for one it can be puke free! >> Let’s check folding table for outdoor activities at here!

LiveFit Trainer: FAIL WEEK!

This past week was a complete failure. I only got in two workouts, a back day and a leg day. My diet was awful and my motivation was MIA. Paul and I both had minor but irritating colds. Paul’s son had a much worse version of our illness. My oldest had it too and then my youngest started throwing up. To top it off things at work were hectic which left me feeling mentally drained at the end of each day. I ended up gaining back a pound or so and I just feel fluffy and unfit. In the end it’s all just excuses but those added up to a lost week.

Sick baby fall asleep in her breakfast

So now it’s time to get back on track. I’m starting week 5 over again and getting my diet back on track. Paul and I are also racing running a 5k on Saturday so I have more reason to stick to eating healthy, hydrating, and getting back to my workouts. We won’t be racing hard but it should be enjoyable to stick together and run for fun for once. If you have been around for awhile then you probably remember the mine race that I have done the past several years. I really wish I had a GoPro so I could show you all the full experience of running a 5k underground!

One of only two workouts last week
Here’s to second chances and the ability to turn around a bad day or week. As the saying goes, it’s not about perfection. It’s about progress!

Returning to the Run

Today was a beautiful fall day for western PA. Temperatures in the 60’s, light breeze, sunshine, and no rain. All day as I slaved away at work, having a terrible day, I felt wound tight and ready to have a fit. I made a big mistake. I cut my hand. I couldn’t get a simple project right. And my boss was overdue on getting my annual review (and therefore raise) done. I finally nagged him into doing the review and he gave me a score much lower than I thought I deserved.

I got into my car feeling defeated by life. I’m working at a job that demands more of my time and attention than my children and gives almost nothing back. The relationship that was supposed to last the rest of my life is over and I’ve come to the realization that dating in this stage of my life is going to be a lot less fun than when I was in my early 20’s. I miss my dog and my fish and my ‘stuff’. And I feel flabby and out of shape. As I drove and fretted I glanced at the temperature readout on my dash. It said 68*F. I couldn’t believe it so I pulled out my phone and checked the weather app (at a red light people!) and it agreed with my Jeep. I decided that a run might be just what I needed.

Now I was feeling scared. It’s been weeks since I ran for real. The Boston Harvest was my last race and probably my last real run. I did 1.5 miles on the treadmill one night but then work got in the way again. Would I be able to run? Would it actually help or just make me feel like a failure in yet another way? What if it really sucked and turned me off to my therapy of choice in this time of need?

I got home and no one was here. My mom had taken Gem to the grocery store and her husband was out and about. I took it as a sign that the run was meant to happen and threw on my INKnBURN denim shorts and steampunk shirt along with my humping bunny socks and Altra Torins. My Garmin thankfully still had a charge after weeks of neglect so I hopped in my Jeep and headed to Northmoreland Park.

I have never run at this particular park. My mom told me there was a 1 mile paved loop. It turned out it’s actually pavers, as in brick and stone laid into a long winding path around a lake. I wasn’t too thrilled about the surface but I was there and ready to go. I jumped out of my car and was struck by the fall foliage reflected on the glassy surface of the water, the sunshine beaming down on the families playing in the grass, and the lure of the other runners out on the path. I started my watch and tried to stay slow but not necessarily easy.
As I rounded the first bend I encountered a small bridge. The view from the bridge looked out over the lake to a boathouse. Geese were grazing on the bank and people were fishing. Walkers, runners, cyclists, and dogs were all out enjoying the day. The air whooshed in and out of my lungs and the tempo of rubber on pavement seemed in time to the nature around me. For the first time in a month I began to relax.
The next bend brought me into a small stand of woods. A family sat on a bench, a squirrel skittered through the leaves, and the shadows of the boughs brought a chill. I still felt good and it seemed like my legs and lungs were loosening up. I began to remember why I do this crazy sport in the first place.
I continued around the boat house and back to where I started. In the second loop I really began to feel the return of the rhythm that comes when you find the zone. Music played softly in my ears but I was barely listening. All the thoughts that have been angrily buzzing around my brain began to sting a little less. I found a little piece of myself that has been missing.
On the third loop my chest began to burn. I knew that I was pushing myself based on the paces I would see when I cared enough to look at my Garmin. For the most part I ran by feel and the tempo was steady. Mile 1: 9:57, mile 2: 10:10, and mile 3: 10:06. I reached my car at 3.2 miles in 32:05 and I was quite pleased with that.
The temptation to continue was strong but I know I need to be smart about coming back. I’m hoping to build back up over November and be able to run some strong races in December to finish out the year. And now I remember why I need to run. Every little detail of my life is still the same. Nothing has changed or will change the path I’m on but somehow it just looks a little brighter with a few extra miles on my legs.

Boston Harvest 2013

This story starts with last year’s Boston Harvest 5k. Shane has been working around the clock since about 3 days after the 2012 race ended to make this year’s version bigger and better. He added a 10k option and got more sponsors, more donations, more door prizes, and just more everything. The goal this year was to have 300 participants. Thanks to an estimated 800 man-hours we reached, and possibly exceeded, this goal.

Friday night we packed up the kids and sent them off to Shane’s parents for the night. Then we frantically packed vehicles and double checked mile markers and signs. We had caught a teenager stealing the handmade scarecrow mile markers from the trail so we had to check every last detail ten times over to be sure everything was perfect. Shane picked up cookies, cake, chips, and made Gatorade while I made parking signs and buckets for door prize drawings.

Parking signs
My car
Shane’s car
Handmade mile markers
By the time we made it to bed Friday night I had no idea how we would make it through race morning. However, we were up and moving shortly after 5am and we got everything set up right on schedule. We never could have done it without all of our wonderful volunteers. They erected tents, set up tables, registered runners, handed out packets, and generally turned chaos into calm.
Food table
Cake with a certain child’s fingerprints
At 9am we were ready to launch the 10k runners. I was originally registered for the 10k but I developed a bad cold in the days leading up to the race and I didn’t want to be MIA for over an hour so I dropped to the 5k. As the 10k began I rushed to set up the awards table, food table, and door prizes for the runners upon their return. A short 15 minutes later it was my turn to toe the line.
Big Beaver Big Dawgs
As we took off I tried to hold back. I was breathing okay and I began to hope I might do okay despite my cold. I was running with our friend’s son and we put down a 7:40 mile. I felt fine and wasn’t even breathing hard. I started to get excited but I guess it was premature. As we approached the turn around I began to feel my chest tighten up. I kept pushing but quickly went from congestion to pain so I pulled way back. My friend’s son kept up the strong pace while I struggled to breathe coming in at 8:30 for mile 2. In mile 3 I began to assume I was going to have to walk. I really eased up and trotted while a few men passed me. As soon as a woman passed me I pulled it together and sped up again. I managed to fend off all of the other approaching women. Mile 3 ticked off in 8:48. I held steady for the last .12 miles and just crossed before the next woman.
Waving to our amazing photographer, Jesse Meyers
Finishing
My chip didn’t register as I crossed the mat and I forgot to stop my Garmin so my time is off. But the official results are listed as 25:54 for 24th overall, 7th woman, and 1st in my age group. I’ll take that for being sick, up all night, and stressed all morning!
Boston Harvest swag
As soon as I finished I stumbled up to the finish area to get back to work. My mom and the other volunteers had set out the door prizes and drawn bib numbers while the races were happening so I spent the next half hour handing out 130 prizes to the lucky winners. Meanwhile Shane was getting the official results printed out and the clown and Kona Ice truck entertained the kids. Unfortunately, our scheduled band did not show up so the adults were less entertained.
Lulu the Clown was a hit again
As soon as the results were available we handed out plaques plus gift certificates to the top 3 men and women in each race plus the top master man and woman. The top 3 men and women in each 5 year age group each received a medal. Every kid got a finisher medal on top of being eligible for an age group award. And there was a midpack award for each race as well. Our hope was that everyone would go home with something between awards and door prizes.
Age group awards
Kids’ medals
Midpack awards
Overall awards
Even the dogs got medals
It began to rain as we started the awards ceremony. Thankfully it stayed at a light drizzle until we were just finishing cleaning up. Everyone except our most loyal volunteers and friends had left by the time it really poured. We quickly broke down the tents and cheap vanity tables and cleaned up the garbage and signs. Before we knew it the ballfield looked like we had never been there and the trail was empty. We were left with 3 vehicles to unload in a downpour but it didn’t put a damper on what turned out to be a really great day!
There is no official total yet but we feel confident we exceeded the $4,000+ we raised for Rex’s fight against Batten’s Disease last year. As soon as the final bills (port-o-john rentals, timing fees, etc) are paid and the final registration check comes in we will be able to give Rex and his family the proceeds from the race. Seeing Rex’s face light up at the race made it worth all the time and effort and frustration. He is such a sweetheart!
Rex and his family and friends
Overall, I don’t think we could have asked for a better day. The course was dead on accurate, the weather was great until the very end, the volunteers were amazing, the participants were cheerful and patient, and everything just went according to plan. We are so blessed to be part of such an amazing community and running family!

I am Not an Athlete

When I started running just 5 short years ago I wanted to be lean and defined and ‘athletic’. I wanted the body and the attitude that went with it. I assumed that once I completed the Couch to 5k program I would feel like an athlete and be well on my way to looking like one too.

Then I finished my first 5k in 29:59 and realized that I am not fast in any sense of the word. I didn’t have an excuse for not being able to beat that mark for a long time. I wasn’t overweight. I quit smoking. I followed training plans. But I was still slow.

After my first half marathon
I convinced myself that I must be a distance runner. You know, all slow twitch. So I set my sights on a half marathon and finished in 2:29. I was still slow and I still looked exactly the same. The pattern continued and I tried the marathon, the 50k, the 50 mile. And the results were the same. I finished in the back of the pack, sometimes even dead last.
Shane and I after my first ultra in 2009
Every distance I tried I succeeded in finishing but it was never good enough. When I failed at 100 miles it was a real shock. When I failed a second time I was doubly convinced that I must not be cut out for it. So I hired a coach and gave training my all and finally ‘succeeded’ on my third try. I thought for sure that NOW I would feel like an athlete.
Well, the truth is, I don’t. I still finished at the back of the pack. I didn’t do anything impressive. All I did was endure. That’s all I’ve ever done; Hold on until the finish line is in sight and then heave myself across. I still don’t look any different. I still don’t feel any different.
I’m not saying running hasn’t given me anything or changed my life. I am more confident because I feel more comfortable in my skin. But it’s still the same skin. And I have made tons of great friends and travelled and gotten to experience many great things. But I’m still just me. I am still just average and I’m still scatter-brained and eccentric.
The Pretty Muddy experience
I don’t know what it will take to convince me that I’m ‘good enough’. Obviously, distance wasn’t the answer. I’m not sure there IS an answer. Maybe that’s the telltale sign of a competitor. Maybe I’m overly competitive. Maybe I’m just insane. In the end, all I know is that I still want to be better. The question now is what kind of better? And I think the answer is speed.
Boston Harvest 5k 2012
I want to consider myself fast. I want to take a podium spot because I ran a great race, not because the fast women were somewhere else that day. I want to be able to dream of Boston. I want to be in the front waves of my next marathon. I’m not sure how I’ll get there or what it will take but I plan to find out. And I can only hope that the same initiative and drive that got me over 100 miles will push me to new race times as well. At least now I have a base to build on!
When did you feel like an athlete? What are your favorite speed workouts or training plans?

Kalajainen Klassic 5k

I’ve been feeling pretty good since my Burning River finish and I’ve started running again. It began with 2 miles and then 3. And then my friends enablers struck again.

I saw that my pacer, Allison, from BR100 was running a weeknight 5k about an hour and a half away. I really wanted to see her again and thank her in a more coherent state of mind for all she did for me. So I loaded up my youngest daughter and the jogging stroller and went to the race. Because that’s what a sane person would do right? Also check reviews of jogging strollers travel system at this blog – babystrollercarseatcombo.com

Goofing off with the baby before the race
Allison is coaching a couple to run the Erie half marathon and they were at the race as well. Being so far away I only saw a few familiar faces but Allison seemed to know everyone. She kept telling everyone how I just finished Burning River which was a little embarrassing. I’m sure no one really cared about the insane girl with the wild-child toddler and a pink stroller!
At 7pm we all walked to the top of a big hill to the starting line. The race director gave a few little directions and shout outs but I missed most of it because I was feeding the baby cookies to keep her quiet. After a few minutes we were off!
The first quarter mile or so was across a parking lot and then left across the top edge of it. Then we turned onto a trail. A real, honest to goodness dirt and grass and rocks trail! The stroller was hammering up and down like a jackhammer and I couldn’t see where my foot would land next so I was forced to back down the pace quite a bit and a few people passed me. I told myself I didn’t care but when we reentered the road after a half mile I started trying to gain back my spot. Mile 1: 9:24
After that there was a fairly long uphill to a turn around point. I saw all my friends and shouted encouragement but I was slowing down. I could feel that uphill was not in the cards today. More people passed me. After the turn around I fairly flew back down the hill but we turned back onto the same trail and I was forced to slow down even more this time. I even walked a few portions for fear of overturning the stroller. Mile 2: 11:14
After we exited the trail into the parking lot where we had started we ran across a bridge and down a paved road on a steep descent. I hate braking on descents but I had to keep control of the stroller on the winding road. I passed many people on the way down and probably got a little ahead of myself. At the bottom of the hill we could see the finish line but we ran right past it. A little while later we turned around at a cone and headed back. I passed one more woman on this section and then there was no one left to catch. So I just tried to maintain the best possible pace. Mile 3: 9:28
The last .1 or so was an 8:37 pace. Time: 30:40
We crossed the line with Allison cheering wildly and amused onlookers cracking jokes about the baby beating me and how I would have crushed the whole field if I had ditched the stroller. It was hilarious to me that they were so impressed with my 30 minute stroller run. Allison actually did perform impressively and took 3rd woman overall.

 

Allison and I post-race
Since Allison had won an award I wanted to stick around and see her get it. I got the baby some pizza and ice cream and she made a mess and ran around like, well, a two year old. While we were waiting the official results went up and my eyes almost bugged out of my head when I saw I’d gotten 3rd in my age group. I finished 52/81 overall and 3/4 in my age group. It’s kind of hard to believe I beat anybody in my current condition but I apparently did.

 

I guess now I should probably actually rest and recover but I’m not good at taking my own advice. I’ll probably just try not to be too stupid and maybe hide all my running friends on Facebook for awhile.

Surprise Improvements

This is the second year I’ve run the Jerry Maher Sr. Memorial 5k for Parkinson’s Awareness. Last year I finished in 27:46. It’s weird to think of that as a good time now.

This year I went into the race not remembering what I ran last year. I remembered the race and the course but I couldn’t remember what I ran and I didn’t really care. I have run about 40 miles so far this week and my legs are trashed. I’m four weeks out from Burning River 100 and all I can think about is tapering. So I hoped I’d pull a 25+ minute run out of my behind today. I would have been thrilled with 26-27 minutes too.

When we arrived I noticed every fast local runner was there. Heath, Emery, Dom, Rich, and Dana were all warming up and chatting around the starting area. I saw plenty of women that had that lean, hungry look that usually signifies speed that I didn’t know by name as well. I figured I was well out of the awards at this point and just hoped I’d survive without walking.

Shane and I collected our bags and hung out in the car until 15 minutes before the 9am start. Then I did a quick warm up run up the road and back to see what my legs were going to give me today. I had an easy 9 minute mile pace on the uphill and no problem flashing 7’s on the way back down so I decided to go out like I was actually racing and let my legs dictate the pace from there.

At the last minute, literally on the starting line, they announced that a tree had fallen on the course and a bridge was out so the course had been diverted and would be almost entirely new. I was a little ticked that this couldn’t have been posted earlier, whether online or by sign at the race. I had definitely arrived early enough that I could have run the whole course as a warm up but I assumed I knew it already. Now I was flying blind.

After a couple false starts (no kidding, they actually pulled us back for that) we were finally off. The lead pack was gone in minutes and I was pretty much by myself. There was a group of young kids all around me and I kept waiting for them to die off but they never really did. Every time one fell off the back another one caught a second wind and took their place. I tried to ignore their uneven pacing and labored breathing and focus on running as evenly as I could. I figured even 7:50’s would get me a PR but it was still a long shot.

Mile 1: 7:53

The second mile turned out to be a long, gradual uphill. I kept chugging along and hoping for it to end. And it finally did right as I hit mile 3.

Mile 2: 8:51

The third mile was pretty gentle and I picked up the pace. There were a few small out and backs with sharp turns to eat into my steady pace. By 2.5 I wanted nothing more than to stop and walk but there were some older guys urging on the young kids that were still hanging with me and I did not want to get beat by any of them. I started focusing on picking them off one at a time until the finish line was in sight.

Mile 3: 7:56

I didn’t have much of a kick and just tried to hold on through the chute. I ended up with an official time of 24:40 for 43 overall and 2nd in my age group. Considering this was on dead legs and in 80 degree heat plus on a hilly course, I’ll take it. If it weren’t for that darned second mile of uphill I very well might have PR’ed. I can pretty much guarantee that, if I survive Burning River, my first 5k post-recovery is going to blow my previous times out of the water.

 

Alpha Fitness 5k

After the Laurel Highlands Ultra relay yesterday (where I ran 24.5 miles of brutal, technical trail) my plan was to rest, nap, hydrate, eat, and pretty much do nothing today. I had gotten home somewhere around 1am and by the time I showered and crawled into bed it was nearly 2. I woke up to Shane getting ready for a local 5k at around 6:30 and rolled right back over. About an hour later my phone wouldn’t stop ringing and I finally gave in and answered.

Shane begged me to come down to the Alpha Fitness Highway to Healthy 5k. There were only 20-some people there and he thought I could win. I told him he was nuts since I already had major mileage on my legs from the All Stars Week mileage game. I was just ready to go back to bed when the little voice in the back of my mind said, “Three more miles could only help your miles game team. You don’t have to race.”

So I threw on some clothes and my trusty Altra Torins. I didn’t have time to do anything with my hair so I added a hat as well. No phone, keys, water, or anything besides my cup of coffee. I walked out the door and jogged down to the path. I found Shane and we got me registered. I drank my coffee and fretted about the burning scrapes on my leg from yesterday’s relay tumble and the aches I’ve already accumulated this week.

The race started a few minutes late and I lined up right up front. So much for not racing huh? I know from past experience that sometimes just showing up is enough to win in a small race. So I went for it. The horn sounded and I took off with the front pack. There were two men and a woman just in front of me. The men were pulling away but the woman was running my pace. I pulled up shoulder to shoulder with her and just hoped to hang on.

Mile 1: 7:50

As we approached the turn around I could feel the fatigue of all the heavy mileage settling in. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I pushed or how fast I turned over my legs. There was just no power left in my toe off and my pace began to slip. I high-fived my husband, who was leading, and then turned back toward the start. I saw the third woman was about a minute behind me and that gave me enough of a rush to keep moving despite slowly losing the lead woman.

Mile 2: 8:30

In the third mile I would have walked if our friend, Jennifer, hadn’t been in third place and gaining on me. I kept glancing over my shoulder and she would be a little closer every time. The jolt of adrenaline would improve my pace for a moment and then my body would begin to shut down again. I told myself I just had to hang on for second place. I would never forgive myself if I let Jennifer catch me now.

Mile 3: 8:50

I saw the finish line ahead and I took one more glance over my shoulder. Jennifer was only 20 or so seconds back now so I pushed as best as I could. That ended up being 8:30 pace for the last .13 miles but it was just enough. Jennifer finished 8 seconds behind me.

Final time: 26:21

5th overall, 2nd woman, 1st in the 20-29 age group. I also won a gift card for a manicure and pedicure in the chinese auction. They only give awards for the 1st overalls and the first in each age group so I got a smaller trophy for my age group win. Shane won overall and got a huge trophy!

Just goes to show it’s all about who shows up!

Our friends
(Shane and Emory in the back. Me, Jennifer, Lukas, Melanie, and Carina in the front.)
Got trophy?
Swag

Memorial Day 5k

Shane wanted to use the long weekend as an opportunity to race together. We haven’t done one as a family since the Hustle for Heartreach 5k last month. And I haven’t actually raced one since December of last year! So to say I expected a pain-fest was an understatement.

We woke up at o-dark thirty and got ready. I was sorely tempted to stay in bed after running 30 miles in the last 4 days, 22 of which were on trail and included over 3 MILES of elevation change. I really wasn’t in the mood to push myself at all. I also worried about my shoes. My Torins have around 300 miles on them now and I haven’t gotten around to shopping for some new Altras.

On the ride I napped and consumed large amounts of coffee. We found the Blairsville Community Center pretty easily and I registered while Shane checked in. I was freezing since we set a new record low for May 27 with 37*F. It was about 43* at race time. I looked around and saw very few women who looked fast. I’m not one to really judge by looks since I often get beaten by the ones I least expected but I lined up where I thought I belonged… behind a cross country girl and next to three women in their 30’s who looked pretty lean and mean.

The RD yelled 3, 2, 1, GO! and everyone took off like it was a sprint. I couldn’t believe the pace the cross country girl and the 30-somethings were setting. I thought maybe my measure was off since I haven’t raced a 5k in 5 months but a quick glance at my Garmin showed a 6:32 pace. WOAH! It was a downhill though so I went with it knowing the down meant an up was coming. My Garmin data shows 500 ft of ascent and almost 600 ft of descent so definitely a rolling course.

I continued to try to cling to the girl and women ahead of me but we began to stretch into a line. The first woman was disappearing into the distance and the cross country girl and three 30-somethings were strung out over about 50 yards ahead of me. I figured 6th place wasn’t that bad but I felt like there was still a good chance to improve if I could hold off a fade. I just didn’t feel confident that I could sustain my former 5k race pace since I haven’t done speedwork in months. There were no mile markers so I was depending on my watch beeping to keep me aware of the distance.

Mile 1: 8:00 (according to Garmin)

At this point I was wondering what the heck is wrong with me. Why did I think I could hold this pace?! I’m training for ultras for crying out loud! Speed is a thing of the past for me right?! Then a miracle happened and the woman directly in front of me slowed to a walk. I chugged ahead of her and fought the urge to slow down myself, afraid that it would motivate her to overtake me again.

Anthony, Shane, and I

As we approached mile 2 I saw cross country girl take a walk break. I still wasn’t caught up to her but it helped to know she was suffering too, apparently worse than myself. I poured on some speed and passed her quickly hoping to psych her out so she wouldn’t come after me.

Mile 2: 8:19

After the second mile marker I focused on the third place woman but she never seemed to get any closer. I passed a cross country boy and then caught our friend, Anthony. We leap frogged for awhile and I begged my legs for more. My ears were buzzing and my sight was a little blurry and I knew I was pushing the limits of my abilities at this time. I glanced at my Garmin and saw 2.4 miles so I just hoped I could hold out until the finish line. The last little uphill completely zapped me and Anthony took the lead again. I tried to catch him but I had nothing left.

Mile 3: 8:09

I turned the last bend and could see the cones and the clock. I was so close to my PR of 24:27 but I just couldn’t bolt to the line. I crossed and stopped my watch. Garmin time: 24:30. Official time: 24:29. It was bib tear timing so it really stings because I bet I could have shaved those three seconds for a new PR with chip timing.

Shirt
I guess I looked like death because the volunteer in the finish chute was pretty concerned. I reassured her, in gasping halting breaths, that I was okay, or would be in a minute anyway. I talked the the second and third place women while we waited for awards and I guzzled water like nobody’s business. By the time the first page of results was printed I was fine.
The official results show Shane finished in 22:16, 8th overall, and 3rd in his age group. I finished in 24:29, 18th overall, 4th woman, and 1st in my age group (20-29). Our awards turned out to be paper certificates. Not really sure what to think about that. Do I frame it? Hang it on the wall? Stick it in a drawer? I like medals better. At least I know what to do with them.
awards
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my performance today. If I can pull off a time like that on fairly dead legs on a rolling course then I should be able to PR by a large margin with a little attention to speed work and tapering.Maybe next year I can catch the 30-somethings!

Baby’s First 5k

Today I had planned to veg out and get some stuff done around the house. I knew Shane had planned to run a 5k and, at the last minute, the kids and I decided to go watch. We drove out to Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA in plenty of time.

Shane picked up his bib and shirt while the kids played on the track. I chatted with our friends, Bonnie and Herb, from the timing company, Miles of Smiles, and Harry of the Big Beaver Big Dawgs. It was cool, breezy, and overcast.

Kids on the track
At the last minute Gemma (8) decided she wanted to run too. So, of course, Ash (2) wanted to join in. We hurriedly registered and gathered on the track for the beginning of the race. Ash gave daddy a good luck hug and then we were off.
As the leaders took off around the track I counted Shane to be in 12th place. I figured he would do well. The girls and I were probably 12 from the back. Gemma decided to take off and run ahead while I walked and jogged with Ash. We headed off the track, through a parking lot, over a bridge, and around the Westminster campus.
Ash was doing well and I wondered how long it would be before she gave up. We came to the water station (which had no water, only some kind of orange drink) and I got Ash a cup. We carried it for awhile and she took a couple sips. I finally dumped it and stuck the empty in my pocket. It was beginning to get really warm so I took our coats off and tied them around my waist.
We came to an four-way intersection and a volunteer directed us to run straight ahead to a stop sign, turn around, and come back to the intersection. Then we turned right and ran a loop around a small block and came back down to the same intersection. Then we went straight through the intersection and ran a loop around a parking lot before returning to the intersection one last time and turning back the way we had run up. This cloverleaf cluster**** led to the front runners being misdirected, including Shane. The first 15 or so runners ended up missing the run around the block and instead ended up on the other side of a small lake before about 5 of them headed off another direction, getting more lost, and the rest reversed course.
At the back of the pack Ash and I had no problems but it was irritating trying to figure out which way to go from the same spot over and over again while not running into the runners in front of us and the walkers behind us who were heading in different directions. We finally headed back the way we had come and stopped at the water stop again. Right around here we caught Gemma and we all stuck together for a little bit until she decided to walk in with another little girl. Ash decided she wanted picked up so I jogged with her for awhile and we left Gemma a little behind. Shane had finished much earlier despite all the wrong turns and he walked in the rest of the way with Gem.
Warm up laps on the track
I jogged with Ash to the track and then put her down to do the last lap on her own. We ran side by side and then I pushed her through the chute. Shane made it in time to get a picture but it didn’t turn out. 🙁  Her time was 48:27. Not bad at all for a 2 year old! Gemma finished about a minute behind her but didn’t receive an official time. I don’t think she has the competitve spirit. 🙂
We headed over to the finish line tent and quickly realized they had run out of water. Between the lack of water at the aid station, the misdirection, and the lack of water at the finish we were kind of upset so we just left. Turns out we should have stuck around because Shane did get first in his age group.
Overall, I’d say the race itself was pretty poorly planned and directed but the experience of running with both of my girls for the first time made it well worth it! Guess it’s time to get them into some Altra Jr.’s!

A Sordid Tale

If you noticed, my last post was taken down after a day. If you didn’t notice… well that’s okay too.

I feel like I’m living in a bad reality TV show, maybe a daytime soap. Things like this just don’t happen in real life, right? Before I get ahead of myself, let me just start at the beginning.

A little over 2 years ago Shane and I went to a volunteer clean up for a conservation area near our home. We spent an entire day mending and painting fences, signs, and benches. We cut apart fallen trees to clear the trails and picked up litter. It was at this event that we met the president of the Mon-Yough Trail Council (MYTC) and pitched our idea for a race on the trail.

Fast forward a few months and our dream became a reality. Team Brunazzi teamed up with the MYTC to create what is now known as the Boston Trail 5k & Half Marathon. About this time Shane and I began experiencing our first ‘trolls’ but we quickly realized it was just one person who seemed bound and determined to find ways into our lives.

Since the first year of this race Shane and I have been targeted by this person. Fake Facebook accounts pop up and add us as friends or ‘like’ our event pages and then start complaining about the event or trying to sabotage our relationships with other community-minded people. We realize the pages are fakes when this happens (and the name on the account was never a registered participant at the event, etc). In the past we have always reacted by ‘unfriending’ the account and moving on.

Now a line has been crossed. This person created a Facebook page for the Mon-Yough Trail Council after last year’s race. No one realized it was not created by the MYTC and the Brunazzi family and many of our friends ‘liked’ the page. The page pretended to be the real MYTC for almost a year, posting about upcoming events, council meetings, and the like.

At one point the page sent Shane a message asking him to submit an article for the MYTC newsletter. Shane spent hours writing and rewriting his article and then sent it off to the trail council by snail mail. Because he sent it to the true MYTC the article was published (without them questioning why he sent it) and we never questioned that the page that asked Shane to write it was legitimate.

This false sense of security in the false MYTC page almost cost us our relationship with the council. A few days ago Shane created an event page for the Boston Trail race and began inviting friends and family to attend. A few hours later the supposed ‘vice president’ of the MYTC used the Facebook page to ask us to take down the event page stating that we couldn’t advertise the race because it’s ‘not ours’ and their sponsor wouldn’t like it.

Shane apologized and took down the event page but questioned why free publicity was suddenly frowned upon. In years past we have bought banners and signs (with our own funds) to promote the race and never been asked to take them down. The response was that Shane and I are ‘arrogant’ and use the race to promote ourselves instead of the MYTC and should leave the race to the professionals. We quickly retaliated by asking our friends and family NOT to attend the race. Of course we were angry, justifiably so, but we were also wrong.

The next day I spoke with the true MYTC board members and learned that the Facebook page was false. We were stunned to say the least. For over a year we had been duped and sabotaged unknowingly. This person managed to set it up to look like the real MYTC by asking Shane to submit the article which was then published. They posted about every event and meeting diligently just like the true council would. Never once did we doubt the authenticity of the page, until it almost ruined an outstanding event.

We quickly apologized to everyone for the mix up and took down our posts about it. This led to the next deception. The person behind all of this obviously had access to Shane and I’s personal Facebook pages. The messages we received referred to posts we had made on our private accounts so we began to hunt for ‘suspect’ friends. We unfriended dozens of pages and people simply because they didn’t have mutual friends or we didn’t know them on any personal level. We began to feel a little more secure in our online world again but it was short lived.

You may remember Shane and I’s first ‘Team Brunazzi’ event, the Boston Harvest 5k, from last year. It benefits a little boy, named Rex, in our community who suffers from Batten’s Disease. We had the pleasure of meeting many family members and friends of Rex at the event and some of them became our Facebook friends too. One of these ‘people’ claimed to be Rex’s grandmother.

For the last year ‘she’ has been privy to our private Facebook pages and all of our posts. ‘She’ has commented on our events and ‘updated’ us on Rex. But today we found out ‘she’ is not real. We spoke to Rex’s family and mentioned this ‘grandmother’ and quickly realized it’s another fake page. The Brunazzi stalker strikes again.

Right now we are just blown away by the length of time, the amount of planning that went into the fake MYTC and ‘grandmother’ pages, and the amount of hate that must be behind such an effort. So I hope you will forgive us if we are not as active or open as we would normally be online. Until the investigation into these matters is completed and the person behind it is facing legal consequences we won’t be very trusting.

Not to fear, however, there will still be race reports, running pictures, and some product reviews coming up. There just will be no updates on our personal or charitable lives. We need to protect ourselves, our children, and our events. I’m sure you understand!

Thank you and love you! <3 p=””>

Week in Review: Week 11

It feels like it should have been unlucky 13. Nothing went right this week. After I forced myself to do my scheduled 10 miles on Thursday I had to work all day Friday. I worked 8am to 7pm or so and then headed home. I was supposed to run 5-6  miles that night but figured I would switch it with Saturday’s rest day.

Actual schedule:
Monday: Yoga + cross training
Tuesday: 6 miles
Wednesday: cross training
Thursday: 10 miles
Friday: rest
Saturday: (5-6 miles) *ended up resting
Sunday: 12 miles

Shane finishing his 5k on Saturday

Saturday Shane was planning to run a 5k in Kittaning. I agreed to go with him to take pictures and cheer but I didn’t plan to race. Looking back I should have. I would have won second place woman and at least gotten a workout in! Shane did really well, taking second place male despite the icy conditions and cold. After the race we went to lunch and then picked up a few things. By the time we got home it was almost dinner time. We decided to watch a movie and then eat. As soon as I ate my stomach began to hurt. Within an hour I had a blinding headache. It was all I could do to stay awake until an acceptable bed time. I couldn’t even force myself to try to walk or run.

Shane and his trophy

I woke up today feeling fine but worn out. Shane and I had made plans to run 12 miles with some friends but by the time I dragged myself out of bed we were running late so we told them to go ahead without us. We made it to the trail and found an ice slick. Shortly after the one mile mark (which took us 12 minutes) we decided to head out onto the roads of the township. No sidewalks, small shoulder, busy roads, and no flat terrain. It was slow going but we made it an adventure and explored housing plans and communities that we’ve never had a reason to tour before. We ended up with just shy of 2,600 feet of vertical gain in 12 miles!

Elevation profile
In the end I finished out the week with only 28 miles. It’s my lowest week of the year so far but my coach reminded me that life happens. Now to forget about the bad week and focus on getting back on my game for week 12!

Random Thoughts and Such

I really don’t have too much to write about right now. As evidenced by the lack of posts lately. I have random snippets of information that I feel might be of interest, however.

Remember how I checked the calibration on our treadmill and it is way off? Well I have scheduled an appointment for Monday to have our treadmill checked over, calibrated, and any problems diagnosed. We will then have the option of buying any parts that have worn out and either install them ourselves or have them installed during a second visit. I’ll keep you posted on how that all works out. I think I’ll do some research into treadmill maintenance that will hopefully prevent us from getting into this situation again.

Next awesome thing…. Shane and I are adding a second race to our resumes. On August 11, 2013 at 7am runners can meet on the Yough River Trail in Elizabeth Township, PA for a 4 or 10 mile run. It will be called the P&LE Express in honor of the railroad that used to run through here. The Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners will be the sponsor and cost will be $3 for non-members and $1 for members. No shirts, no medals, etc. Just run and be timed for cheap!

The old railroad logo
Our second annual Boston Harvest 5k will be on September 21, 2013. This year we will also be adding a 10k option. The 5k will start at 9am and the 10k will start at 9:15am. Cost is $15 or $10 for kids under 15 and seniors over 59. Late registration will be $5 extra. Last year we were able to raise over $4,000 for Rex Timko of Forward Township. Rex has Batten’s Disease which is a life limiting disease that causes mental impairment, seizures, loss of sight, speech and motor skills. All proceeds go to Rex and his family. For more infomation on Rex visit www.rallyforrex.com. We are also still in need of sponsors and donations to cover the costs of insurance, permits, and awards. If you know of a company that may be interested in sponsoring please emailTeamBrunazzi@gmail.com.

Lastly, I’m still continuing with Graston treatments and a few people have asked me how to find a Graston practitioner. You can search for one here. As a word of caution, make sure you don’t ‘suck it up’ if the force is actually painful. I learned this thanks to an aggressive treatment on my quadriceps tendon that led to a huge bruise that’s hung around for two weeks now!

Lesson Learned. Speak up if it hurts!
I guess that’s all for now. Work is picking back up, I’m still working through my ACSM CPT classes (over halfway!), I need to go take a CPR/AED class, and I am still running like a mad woman! I finished January with a PR 190.8 miles! So if you find yourself wondering why I haven’t posted it’s probably because I’m out on a road or trail (or hopefully our treadmill again soon!).
How was your January? Did you let the winter weather keep you from running? Did you workout indoors in other ways?

Three Cheers for Volunteers!

Today was the inaugural Odyssey 5k in Monongahela, PA. It wasn’t huge, it wasn’t the easiest course (but it apparently wasn’t the toughest either!), and it wasn’t the most competitive field. What was it? A show of solidarity and community. It was a gathering of strangers and acquaintances who left as friends. It was also a huge blow to neuroblastoma.

What’s neuroblastoma? It’s the most common cancer of infants. Everyone’s heard of leukemia and yet neuroblastoma is almost twice as common in young children. 70% of children diagnosed with this cancer will be in the late stages and less than 40% of them will survive 5 years. It’s hard to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic normal childhood illness with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or breathing difficulty. This cancer needs to be more widely recognized and more research needs to happen to save the lives of the children affected by it.

The reason for the race today was two-fold, a mix of grief and celebration. The director and founder of Team Odyssey, Laura, is a mother of two. Both her son and her daughter were diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 1999, just 6 days apart. Her daughter went into remission in 2000 but still suffers the late effects of neuroblastoma and treatment today. Laura’s son was not so lucky. He passed away in 2004 after a courageous fight. Laura’s war on neuroblastoma began from this heartbreaking chapter of her family’s life.

The Odyssey 5k began at 11:01 am, the time of her son’s passing. 119 runners and 25 walkers started under sunny skies after a brief prayer from the church pastor. It really didn’t seem the day could be going any better.

Blessing before the race

This race was different for me because I wasn’t lined up and I wasn’t wearing running shoes. Instead I stood on the sidelines and cheered as the runners took off. I was a volunteer…

Race morning started as usual, with an early wake up and some strong coffee. However, I followed the usual routine with loading my car with a Gatorade dispenser and some steel tubs to hold bottled water. I arrived at the church a little after 8 am and was introduced to a couple other volunteers. We got right to work mixing Gatorade, cutting bananas and oranges, laying out food tables, and setting up registration. Laura kept us organized and moving right along.

On your marks!

Before I knew it people were filing in to register or check in and more volunteers continued to arrive as the morning went on. I couldn’t believe the amount of giving that I saw today. Volunteers brought soup, chili, cookies, sloppy joes, and all kinds of homemade goodness to warm up the runners. There were baskets and baskets of goodies donated for the chinese auction and door prizes from business throughout the community.

First year races usually have a lot of flaws and issues but Laura and Team Odyssey planned everything really well and the volunteers came together perfectly. There was a table for pre-registered runners, a table for race day registration, a table to pick up race packets and t-shirts, and a table to buy raffle tickets. It all moved like a well-oiled machine and there were volunteers to spare. Soon most of the volunteers moved off to different corners of the course to direct runners along their way. The local police and Team Odyssey closed the roads and marked the course and a cruiser followed the last group throughout making sure everyone was safe.

The after party

After the last person crossed the line the timing company got right to work on sorting out results while volunteers organized the medals and attended to runners. There was even a massage table! It wasn’t long before results were handed over and Laura read off the winners. Even after the awards were doled out and the food was mostly gone, runners and volunteers continued to hang out and talk shop. The atmosphere was just that positive and fun!

The volunteers didn’t disappear as soon as the race ended either. I could hardly believe how quickly the church’s rec room returned to its pre-race state. Food was packed away, tables were returned to proper order, and banners were taken down. The floor was swept and all of the trash was moved to receptacles, even separated into garbage and recycling.

Lots of happy runners

I could easily list out all of the duties that the volunteers today performed and overwhelm this page with a list a mile long. But in the end all that really matters is that the volunteers made this race amazing and helped raise funds and awareness for neuroblastoma. I am honored to have been included in such an amazing group and I can’t wait to take part again next year!

For more information on neuroblastoma vist the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.

Silvester Nacht (New Year’s Eve)

Yesterday Shane and I ran the Harmony Silvester 5k for the third year in a row. This year it was kalt! (Cold!) This race through historic (and hilly!) Harmony celebrates its German heritage by kicking off Silvester (New Years) on Germany’s time. A 3PM race is followed by a 6PM countdown and ball drop with fireworks (midnight in Germany).

Shane and I knew parking would be a nightmare. The timing company (Miles Of Smiles) owner had warned us that over 300 people had pre-registered earlier this week so we made sure to arrive early and get a good parking spot. We picked up our race bags and dropped them in the car and then ran the course as a warm up. We arrived back at the starting line 10 minutes before the start and I did some form drills to stay warm and hopefully get ready to PR!

Race day weather was not ideal
At 3 o’clock on the dot…. we stood there…. There was a flatbed truck and a bunch of cars on the course (open course) so we had to wait for them to move out of the crowded starting area. We finally got the bullhorn about 5 minutes later. I took off with a woman I had lined up beside and quickly realized I was being pulled out too fast. My Garmin flashed 6:35 pace and I pulled back, maybe too much. The first mile is rolling and ends with one GIANT uphill but I was fresh. It should have been fast!
Mile 1: 8:05
The second mile is more downhill than uphill. There’s a few good ups but it’s mostly runnable. However, I was fretting over my slow first mile and trying not to overcompensate on the downhills. I was worried about ice and the broken asphalt and the fact that I fell on ice yesterday and my knee was feeling a little tender. Once again, I erred too much on the side of caution.
Mile 2: 8:00
The last mile is almost entirely uphill with one good downhill stretch. I tried to let my legs fly on this downhill but I couldn’t catch my breath. I think partly due to the fact I overdressed and partly due to the cold air temperatures and wind. I really struggled on the last hills and people were flying by me. I think I kind of mentally threw in the towel as groups of women passed me.
Mile 3: 8:32
As I came into sight of the finish line I checked my watch and realized a PR was out of reach. I was getting really angry at myself at this point and I heard footsteps approaching my left shoulder. I dug deep and out-sprinted a man to the timing mat. I beat him by 4 tenths of a second! At least I can be proud of that.
Final .13 miles: 1:05 (8:24 average)
Overall time: 25:41
I was kind of sulking in the church where the food and water was set out until I talked to a few other runners. It seems like a lot of our friends had a pretty rough day, probably due to the weather. Finishing only 36 seconds slower than last year and placing better was a big morale boost.
Elevation Profile
Last year I placed 5th in my age group. This year I was…. wait for it…. Second! There were 19 women in my age group. I think it’s pretty awesome that I was able to take an award when there was that much competition! I finished 2/19 age group, 56/255 women, and 163/518 overall.
Happy with my award
Shane and I
Shane and I had to haul our butts home pretty fast though as the weather began to deteriorate even further. We ended up driving home in a white out!
Right in the middle of a snow storm!
Overall, I think this was a good way to end the year. It may not have been the PR I was hoping for but it wasn’t PR conditions. I still outperformed my competition and took an award for the first time at this race. I’ll just have to look forward to a very big PR in 2013!
Shirt, bib, and medal